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The Story of Minera Lead Mines

Minera - the place where mining was so important it gave its name to the village. The name Minera comes from the medieval Latin word for mine or ore.

Below Minera lies a valuable metal that people have used for over 8,000 years - lead. At Meadow Shaft (the site of the Minera Lead Mines visitor centre) the lead is deep underground. However the first mines were up on Eisteddfod and Esclusham Mountains, above Minera, where the lead is at or near the surface.

Miners from Llanarmon-yn-Iâl ready to go down the mines at Minera.
© Courtesy of Denbighshire Record Office

The first written record of the lead miners of Minera dates from 1296 when Edward I hired them to work in his new mines in Devon. The miners were ordered to present themselves for service. They did not all go as the Minera lead mines were worked until the Black Death (1349).

Breaking up the lead ore, 16th century style
© Courtesy of Georgius Agricola & Carl Parry

During the 15th century there was little mining activity as Owain Glyndwr's uprising and the Wars of the Roses caused a downturn in the economy.

Under the Tudors (16th century) local landowners and merchants regularly tried to get the lead mines working again. They were rarely successful.

In 1527 Sir John Chilston and Launcelot Lowther, two local officials, paid 20 shillings a year to have the local lead mining rights. These included:

"all mines of lead, open and to be opened, left and not occupied or used out of memory, with full power, liberty and authority to dig, sink, try, open, search and find out all manner of lead, lead ore, or packs of lead."

Sir John Chilston and Launcelot Lowther

They also had the rights to mine coal and quarry stone. Yet still they could not make it pay. Only the owners of the mineral rights, landowners such as the Grosvenors, made any money.